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The dreaded return of polio

The World Health Organization has confirmed that polio has re-emerged in Syria for the first time in 14 years. The US State Department, along with several humanitarian agencies, is calling on all parties to the Syrian conflict to allow vaccination and treatment teams into the hardest-hit provinces — which, not coincidentally, are also the ones most contested by government forces and rebels. To thwart what could become a regional outbreak of a crippling disease, both sides must cooperate to ensure the safety of medical personnel and renew vaccination efforts.

Before the civil war started in 2011, Syria had one of the best polio vaccination rates in the Middle East. Immunization programs collapsed, however, as health facilities were burned, bombed, or abandoned. Beyond polio, several other vaccines have not been administered. Any number of other potential health crises may await.

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